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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                                                                                      

Trinidad & Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago has earned a reputation as an excellent investment site for international businesses and has one of the highest growth rates and per capita incomes in Latin America.

Trinidad and Tobago is the leading Caribbean producer of oil and gas, and its economy is heavily dependent upon these resources but it also supplies manufactured goods, notably food and beverages, as well as cement to the Caribbean region.

The Manning administration has benefited from fiscal surpluses fueled by the dynamic export sector; however, declines in oil and gas prices have reduced government revenues which will challenge his government's commitment to maintaining high levels of public investment.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]


CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Trinidad & Tobago.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Help needed for street children in T&T [PDF]

Hayden Mills, Trinidad & Tobago Express, January 2nd 2005

[accessed 19 February 2015]

Gittens told the Sunday Express there were basically two types of street children in Trinidad and Tobago: "Those who have no homes to go to because their parents abandoned them, and those who do have homes and families but, for one reason or the other, are left to or made to fend for themselves."  The latter describes the majority of street children in Trinidad and Tobago, Gittens revealed.  Marshall profiled the typical street child as "male, Afro-Trinidadian, between the ages 10 to 14, attends primary school, returns home at the end of the day and still manages to engage in aspects of sociability with his counterparts from mainstream society".  "He is not homeless," the profile continues, "and views his parents in a positive light. Above all, he comes from the low socio-economic ladder (of society) where his parents are either blue-collar workers or unemployed."  These children leave home due to abject poverty or abuse in the home, whether physical, emotional or sexual.  Despite this, most return home and have a natural love for their parents and caregivers. "An innocence," Marshall explained.

She explained that the lure of money kept them on the streets.  By begging and doing odd jobs, a street child can make between $80 and $100 in one day, said James-Ransom.  "Soft-hearted women rarely turn them away," she said.  One street child who spoke with the Sunday Express two Wednesdays ago said money was the reason why he had left Credo Foundation and vowed never to return.  The boy, who said he was 12 and named Arnold, said: "I went there with ah hundred dollars and when ah ask them for it the next morning they didn't want to give mih so I take my things and gone."

These children felt a sense of freedom on the streets-there are no authority figures, no rules, no chores, no responsibility and no structure to be assimilated into, James-Ransom explained.  More compelling was their desire to be away from "a home" which, to them, was the source of their problems, she added.  But the stark reality, as painted by WPC Elizabeth Daniel of the City Police, is that children often run from the frying pan into the fire.


*** ARCHIVES ***

The Department of Labor’s 2006 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor [PDF]

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2007

[accessed 1 January 2011]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Children in Trinidad and Tobago are reported to work in agriculture, scavenging, loading and stocking goods, gardening, car repair, car washing, construction, fishing, and begging.  Children also work as handymen, shop assistants, cosmetologist assistants, domestic servants, and street vendors. These activities are usually reported as being part of family business.  Children are also reported to be victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

CURRENT GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS TO ELIMINATE THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR - In August 2006, the Ministry of Social Development published the Revised National Plan of Action for Children, which includes specific goals for combating commercial sexual exploitation of children and exploitive child labor. The National Steering Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor, with the advice and support of the ILO, is participating in a project to withdraw and rehabilitate child laborers at two landfill sites in Trinidad and Tobago.

Human Rights Reports » 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 25, 2009

[accessed 11 February 2020]

CHILDREN - A lack of funds and expanding social needs challenged the government's ability to carry out its commitment to protect the rights and welfare of children.   Education is compulsory up to the age of 12, and public education is free for all elementary and secondary students up to the age of 20. Some parts of the public school system failed to meet the needs of the school-age population due to overcrowding, substandard physical facilities, and occasional classroom violence.

SECTION 6 WORKER RIGHTS – [d] The minimum legal age for workers is 12 years. Children from 12 to 16 years of age may work only in family businesses. Children under the age of 18 may work legally only during daylight hours, with the exception that 16- to 18-year-olds may work at night in sugar factories. The Ministry of Labor and Small and Micro Enterprise Development and the Ministry of Social Development are responsible for enforcing child labor provisions.

The Protection Project - Trinidad & Tobago [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[accessed 2009]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - Child labor is a problem in Trinidad and Tobago. Exact numbers of children who are working in Trinidad and Tobago do not exist; however, studies show that children on these islands are working as beggars and street vendors and are involved in prostitution and the drug trade.

Local group on mission to rescue street children

Verdel Bishop, Trinidad & Tobago's Newsd@y, December 22 2008,92236.html

[accessed 1 August 2011]

Street children are often beaten, scorned and neglected and are looked upon as nuisances. They are prone to sexual abuse, infections, and drug addictions and although it may seem like no one cares, Operation Rescue Street Children (ORST) is on a mission to save these youngsters.   Public perceptions of street children is ridiculous. There are some people that never consider how these children, as young as seven and eight years old, are left on the streets. It is of no fault of theirs.   “We have heard so many horror stories from street children. Some of them come from abused institutions, entrusted by the state to care for them, yet these same institutions abuse them, sexually, verbally, mentally and physically. We hear so many stories . . . stories which we are sure go uninvestigated.”

Govt must care for street children

Keino Swamber, Trinidad & Tobago's Express, August 25th 2007

[accessed 9 January 2017]

"These children, who become young people, do so without any sense of purpose or value to their own lives or the lives of others, thus making this growing population of street children and incubator for the development and nurturing of criminal activity."

SEBA said everything must be done to generate a sense of pride and self-esteem in these young individuals.

Strengthen social services in Budget

Rhondor Dowlat, Trinidad & Tobago's Newsd@y, August 20 2007,62686.html

[accessed 1 August 2011]

Street children who range from the age of three to seventeen spend their days begging. At nights, they go to any of the parks in and around the city, including Victoria Square and other open spaces, where they huddle together for warmth as well as protection from sex predators.

Boys stay positive after fire

Trinidad & Tobago's Express, May 13th 2007

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 1 August 2011]

Unstable families, homelessness and abuse are parts of these boys' stories. They found refuge in the three-storey building on Nelson Street in Port of Spain.  And then there was the fire. It totally destroyed the loft and top storey of the building. The boys' dormitory along with all of their personal effects went up in smoke.  "All they were left with was the clothes on their backs," Sr Roberta O'Flaherty, executive director of the centre, told the Sunday Express.

All I want for Christmas

Rhondor Dowlat, Trinidad & Tobago's Newsd@y, December 14 2006,49144.html

[accessed 1 August 2011]

Since Kicks was seven years old he has roamed the streets of Port-of-Spain. He ventured out after his mother died of cancer. His father, Kicks said, was not able to raise him and six other siblings.   “After my mother died of cancer my father got another woman leaving us behind. It hurt me so much that I could not stay home, I had to go out there (the streets) to fend for myself and my brothers and sisters,” Kicks said.

Kicks described living on the streets as hard, but said that “at the end of the day” he and the other street children he made friends with, over the years, were left with no other choice.   “Yes, I too got caught up with the wrong. I was introduced with smoking weed at age eight and ever since I do it. I do not abuse it but I still do it, I really can’t help myself, at least that allows my mind to be peaceful just for a moment,” Kicks said.   “I really do wish to change but I desperately need help and I see other children my age that also need help. I also tried to kill myself once because I could not stand the pressure,” he added.

“I wish sometimes that everyday could be Christmas, the music, the toys, the decorations and most of all the food. I sit on the pavement sometimes and look at children my age or younger with their moms — hand in hand — I would then close my eyes and imagine I am that child holding onto my mother’s hands walking down the streets,” Kicks said with tears rolling down his cheeks.   “Too much pain, all I want for Christmas is my mummy, that is all I want. I want to be held by her, hugged and kissed. Having her in my heart is ok but I want her back from her grave,” Kicks said.

Who Controls the Media and Crime?

A. A. Hotep, Editorial, Trinidad & Tobago News, April 24, 2005

[accessed 1 August 2011]

The mainstream media only took up the issue of street children after we broke the story here in 1996 by encouraging the Mirror newspaper to publish interviews with some of the street children. Before the story came out, people were condemning our claim that there even are children who live on the streets. As soon as the mainstream press picked up the story, they did exactly as the children predicted; they ran a sensationalized story, resulting in the government rounding up a few street children. In the government's view, picking up a few kids solved the problem. The street children knew better, as they had already told me that was the very reason they did not want the media taking up their plight. The children felt they were better off living in the shadows of society, withstanding the abuses that come with living in the streets.

For anyone not familiar with how truly gruesome it was for these children, consider six and seven year olds being raped for fast food. One case I followed closely involved a wealthy white male. He used to pick up a few children, taking them to his home for sex. For this he would give them boxes of fried chicken. One child, after having been brutally raped in a similar encounter, was left for dead in the Queens Park Savannah. sccp

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Street Children – Trinidad & Tobago",, [accessed <date>]